Texas A&M Aggies: Tim Tebow

SEC's lunch links

June, 2, 2014
Jun 2
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Starting tonight Florida and Alabama tussle for the national championship in softball. After that, we're running out of college sports seasons.
One more time, and with emphasis, the 6-1-1 scheduling format the SEC has settled on going forward stinks.

If the league's not going to play nine conference games (and it should), then the only sensible way to make eight conference games work is to play six divisional foes and two rotating cross-divisional foes -- a 6-0-2 format -- and punt the old 6-1-1 format for good.

A conference really isn't a conference when you go eight years without playing a team that's supposed to be in your conference. And, yet, that's the warped reality of the SEC schedule, at least through 2025. The league office announced Monday a 12-year rotation of cross-divisional opponents for all 14 SEC schools.

Some of the highlights … or lowlights:
  • Alabama and South Carolina won't meet again until 2019 in Columbia, S.C. The two teams last met in 2010, also being in Columbia, when the Gamecocks upset the then No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide 35-21. Moreover, South Carolina won't play again in Tuscaloosa until 2024. The Gamecocks' last visit to Bryant-Denny Stadium came in 2009.
  • Alabama will play Florida in the Swamp again in 2021, a decade after they last met in Gainesville in 2011. Tim Tebow and Nick Saban might both be in the broadcast booth by then.
  • Auburn and Florida won't play again until 2019 when they meet in the Swamp. The Gators' next visit to Jordan-Hare Stadium will come in 2024. Auburn and Florida played every season from 1945-2002. They last met during the 2011 season. Talk about a rivalry slowing fading away.
  • Texas A&M, heading into its third season in the SEC, won't make its first appearance in Neyland Stadium to take on Tennessee until 2023. Heck, by then, Texas might be in the SEC, too.
  • Tennessee won't venture back to Tiger Stadium to face LSU until 2022. Tennessee's last visit to Death Valley came in 2010. That's 12 years in between visits. The Vols have had four head coaches in the last six years.
  • Remember how entertaining that Georgia-LSU game was a year ago with the Bulldogs out-gunning the Tigers for a 44-41 win? Well, they won't play again in Athens until 2025. Uga's grandson could be patrolling the Dawgs' sideline by then.

Get the picture?

Saving the annual Alabama-Tennessee and Auburn-Georgia rivalries were important, which is why the league presidents voted to keep the 6-1-1 format and permanent cross-divisional opponents. But the conference has simply become too detached when certain teams go so long without playing each other in the regular season.

Every player who stays for four years should get the opportunity to face every team in the league at least once. And as a fan, it would be nice to see every team come to your home stadium at least a couple of times before you're too old to climb up to your seats.

Maybe we'll still get to nine conference games at some point, which would solve a lot of problems.

The coaches in the league, except for Saban, don't want any part of nine games. In their mind, eight is plenty, especially if everybody is going out and also playing one nonconference game against a team from one of the other four power conferences.

It's worth mentioning that none of the coaches liked the idea of playing an SEC championship game back in the early 1990s when that subject was first broached by then-SEC commissioner Roy Kramer. More than two decades later, it's fair to say they've warmed up to the idea, particularly since it's aided more than a few teams' paths to a national championship.

Here's a look at the cross-divisional rotation for all 14 teams over the next 12 years.

What to watch in the SEC: Week 8

October, 17, 2013
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Here are 10 things to watch in the SEC this week:

[+] EnlargeAaron Murray
AP Photo/Wade PayneAaron Murray is on the verge of breaking several SEC career records, but also needs to help keep Georgia in the SEC East race.
1. Missouri offense vs. Florida defense: Missouri earned its biggest victory in its year-plus in the SEC last weekend when it beat Georgia. The Tigers' challenging October schedule continues this week when No. 22 Florida brings its fearsome defense to Columbia, and the Tigers must face those Gators without starting quarterback James Franklin, who separated his shoulder against Georgia. Freshman Maty Mauk did a fine job against Georgia's subpar defense, but he will face few stiffer challenges than what he'll face Saturday against a Florida defense that is allowing just 235.3 yards per game. Mizzou is third in the SEC in total offense with an average of 515.7 yards per game, so the many talented skill players at Mauk's disposal will have to give the new starter a hand on Saturday.

2. Record watch in Nashville: In Saturday's Georgia-Vanderbilt game, a handful of SEC career records could fall. With 112 career touchdown passes, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray is just two behind Danny Wuerffel's SEC career record. And with 12,203 career yards of total offense, Murray needs 29 yards to match Tim Tebow's SEC mark. On the other sideline, Vandy's Jordan Matthews needs 97 receiving yards to match Terrence Edwards' SEC career record of 3,093 yards. Matthews had 119 receiving yards against the Bulldogs last season.

3. Gators running game: With the news this week that running back Matt Jones became the seventh Florida player to suffer a season-ending injury, the Gators' running game is now largely in the hands of Mack Brown and freshman Kelvin Taylor. Brown has been solid enough thus far, rushing for a team-high 340 yards. But Taylor is the guy many Gators fans are excited about. The son of UF great Fred Taylor, Kelvin Taylor has rushed 16 times for 98 yards (6.1 per carry), including 10 carries for 52 yards in last week's slugfest against LSU. Missouri's run defense ranks third in the SEC at 126.2 YPG, but Georgia freshmen J.J. Green and Brendan Douglas ran for 157 yards and averaged 6 yards per carry against the Tigers' last week. The Gators probably need Brown and Taylor to be similarly productive in order to hang with the Tigers' prolific offense.

4. Marshall back for Auburn: After sitting out last week's blowout win against Western Carolina with a knee injury, Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall returns to the lineup this week against Texas A&M. Marshall rushed for 140 yards -- the most by an SEC quarterback this season -- in his last game, the Tigers' 30-22 win on Oct. 5 against then-No. 24 Ole Miss. He led the resurgent Tigers to a 4-1 record before taking a seat last week while true freshman Jeremy Johnson played for the first time -- and won SEC Freshman of the Week honors -- against the overmatched Catamounts.

5. Can Georgia recover? With half a dozen starters sidelined last week against Missouri, Georgia lost its first home game since September 2011. Now the Bulldogs limp to Vanderbilt, where they have struggled in two of their last three visits before earning narrow wins. UGA hopes to reach next week's open date with its SEC East hopes still intact. All-SEC tailback Todd Gurley likely still won't play this week, so the Bulldogs' offense must hope Murray, freshman tailbacks Green and Douglas and their crew of replacement wideouts can generate enough offense to outscore the slumping Commodores.

6. Vols back from open date: The last time we saw Tennessee, it came within an eyelash of upsetting then-No. 6 Georgia in overtime. First-year coach Butch Jones' team took last weekend off and now has another enormous test on its hands: a visit from No. 11 South Carolina, which finally seems to be hitting its stride after some early struggles. Volunteers fans are optimistic about the new coaching staff, but their team hasn't beaten a ranked opponent in its last 19 tries. Their next four opponents are all ranked in this week's AP Top 25.

[+] EnlargeHugh Freeze
John David Mercer/USA TODAY SportsHugh Freeze and Bo Wallace will try to snap Ole Miss' losing streak against LSU this weekend.
7. Can Hogs “snap out of it?” Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said this week that he doesn't want his players to be a bunch of “Debbie Downers” after Saturday's 52-7 loss to South Carolina. That was the Razorbacks' fourth straight loss, the most lopsided loss of Bielema's coaching career and matching his worst defeat as a head coach. Unfortunately for Arkansas, it visits No. 1 Alabama on Saturday, where it will be a four-touchdown underdog. It could be a long second half of the season for the Razorbacks.

8. Maintaining historic run: The SEC set a record when Auburn jumped into this week's AP Top 25, giving the conference eight ranked teams. But that historic total might be short-lived. At No. 24, Auburn will likely drop out if it loses on Saturday at No. 7 Texas A&M. No. 15 Georgia and No. 22 Florida also can't afford a loss if they want to remain in the poll next week.

9. Repeat performance for Aggies? Johnny Manziel and the Texas A&M offense gained 671 total yards, the most ever allowed by an Auburn defense, in last season's 63-21 win against the Tigers. Those 63 points also represented the third-most points ever scored against the Tigers. If that wasn't the last straw for then-coach Gene Chizik and his staff, it was awfully close. New coach Gus Malzahn has instilled new optimism on the Plains. The Tigers are a ranked team for the first time since November 2011, but the Aggies are still a two-touchdown favorite.

10. Rebs on the ropes: Ole Miss was one of the feel-good stories of the season just a few weeks ago, with the Rebels' Sept. 14 win helping them jump to No. 21 in the polls. But entering Saturday's home game against LSU, Hugh Freeze's club has lost three straight games: a shutout loss to top-ranked Alabama followed by narrow losses to Auburn and Texas A&M. LSU has won nine of the last 11 against the Rebels, although three of the last four have been decided by a touchdown or less. Keep your eyes on Oxford on Saturday night. This game often has a way of remaining surprisingly competitive.

SEC Week 7: Did you know?

October, 11, 2013
10/11/13
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We've reached Week 7 in the SEC. Here are some random tidbits you might not have known.

• The matchup between Florida's stellar defense and LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger should be highly intriguing. The Gators lead the nation in Total QBR allowed, with opposing quarterbacks rating just a 13.0 against Florida and completing just 21.1 percent of their passes of 15 yards or longer. Meanwhile, Mettenberger has completed 60 percent of his throws of 15-plus for eight touchdowns, no interceptions and an average of 15.8 yards per attempt.

• Florida quarterback Tyler Murphy has led an offensive revival since taking over for Jeff Driskel as the Gators' signal-caller. He hasn't played enough snaps to qualify for ESPN's Total QBR rankings, but only Oregon's Marcus Mariota and Baylor's Bryce Petty have higher QBRs than Murphy's 93.7 among QBs who have participated in at least 80 action plays.

• South Carolina expects star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney to start this week after missing last week's game with a much-debated injury. ESPN Stats and Information reports that Clowney has played 63 percent of South Carolina's defensive snaps this season. Opponents are averaging 5.9 yards per play with Clowney on the field versus 4.8 ypp when he's off.

• Georgia enters Saturday's game against Missouri riding a 15-game winning streak. That's the longest active home winning streak in the conference and the third-longest such streak in school history. The Bulldogs last lost at home against South Carolina on Sept. 10, 2011.

• Expect Alabama to look to establish the run against Kentucky on Saturday. The Crimson Tide are averaging an SEC-high 6.6 yards per designed run in SEC games. Meanwhile, the Wildcats are allowing 5.2 yards per designed run -- second-most in the league. Kentucky has allowed an SEC-high 629 yards before contact on such runs.

• Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray claimed the SEC's career passing yards lead last week against Tennessee. He's closing in on two more career marks. With 11,908 yards of career total offense, Murray is 324 yards behind Tim Tebow's SEC record (12,232). And with 109 career touchdown passes, he's five behind Danny Wuerffel's SEC record of 114.

• Ole Miss' no-huddle offense has been a mess of late after a strong start. The Rebels averaged just 1.6 yards per play last week against Auburn when employing the no-huddle after averaging 7.6 yards per play through the first four games when operating out of the no-huddle. Quarterback Bo Wallace was 2-for-10 on passes out of the no-huddle against Auburn after going 19-for-23 in the first four games.

• Arkansas freshman Alex Collins leads the SEC with 651 rushing yards, but his workload has decreased in his first two conference games. Collins was averaging 21.5 carries against nonconference opponents, but that average dipped to 13.5 in SEC play. His average yards per game dipped from 120.3 to 85.0 and his yards after contact per game have dropped steeply, from 73.0 to 27.5.

• Aside from its shaky performance in a win against Texas A&M, Alabama's defense has been impressive. Following a shutout against Ole Miss and a 45-3 win last week against Georgia State, the Crimson Tide are now tied with Florida for the SEC lead in scoring defense at 12.2 ppg. Alabama is second in rushing defense (85.8 ypg), second in total defense (299.8) and fifth in pass defense (214.0). The Tide have an SEC-low 25 missed tackles according to ESPN Stats and Information.

• Missouri is first in the SEC in rushing (258.8 ypg) and fourth in passing (285.0). The Tigers rank among only five FBS teams averaging at least 255 yards on the ground and 285 through the air alongside Baylor, Oregon, Washington and UCLA.

• Auburn will hold its 100th observance and 87th homecoming game on Saturday against Western Carolina. The Tigers are 74-8-4 in their previous homecomings. They own a 2-0 all-time record against the Catamounts, winning by a combined 111-6 margin.

• It's also homecoming at Mississippi State and a reunion between three Bulldogs coaches with a program where they once worked: Bowling Green. Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen and assistants Billy Gonzales and John Hevesy coached at Bowling Green in 2001-02. Mullen also met his wife Megan while coaching there.

SEC Week 6: Did you know?

October, 4, 2013
10/04/13
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Not a ton of marquee games matching up ranked teams this week in the SEC, but some interesting matchups nonetheless, like Auburn-Ole Miss, Missouri-Vanderbilt and Arkansas-Florida, among others. Here are some statistical notes from around the league, with an assist from ESPN Stats & Information:
  • Georgia senior quarterback Aaron Murray is likely to become the SEC's career passing yardage leader on Saturday when the Bulldogs travel to Tennessee. He trails the current leader, former Georgia quarterback David Greene, by just 99 yards on the all-time SEC passing yardage list (Greene's record total is 11,528). Murray (11,249 passing yards) has never thrown for fewer than 109 yards in a game throughout his 45-game career.
  • Murray still needs 573 total offensive yards to catch former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow (12,232 yards) who holds the SEC's career total offense record. Murray has 11,659 total offensive yards to his name.
  • LSU has done well to avoid allowing one loss turn into two. The Tigers, who lost to Georgia in a thriller last week, haven't lost consecutive SEC games since 2009. They haven't lost two games consecutively, regardless of opponent, since 2008. Under head coach Les Miles, LSU is 20-1 following a loss (including season openers after a loss to end the previous season).
  • This is the first time in LSU history that the team has scored at least 30 points in each of the first five games of the season.
  • South Carolina's 169 rushes are the most the Gamecocks have recorded through four games since Steve Spurrier was hired as their head coach prior to the 2005 season. They've rushed for at least 220 yards in each of those first four games and are averaging 5.32 yards per carry, which is tied for 24th in the country.
  • Spurrier has been extremely successful against the Gamecocks' opponent this week, Kentucky. He owns a 19-1 career record against Kentucky.
  • Florida's rushing defense is No. 1 nationally in yards allowed per game (53.5) and it is the only defense to hold every opponent to fewer than 75 rushing yards this season. The average AQ conference team hits opponents at or behind the line of scrimmage 42 percent of the time; Florida has done it 57 percent of the time this year. The Gators also allow the second-fewest yards before contact per game, with 15. Only Michigan State (12.8 yards allowed before contact per game) has a better average.
  • While Florida's run defense has been dominant, Arkansas' rushing attack has been superb. The Razorbacks are second in the SEC in rushing yards per game (237) and freshman Alex Collins leads the conference with 597 rushing yards this year. So it will be interesting to watch who wins the battle when Arkansas runs the football against the Gators.
  • Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace is one of two quarterbacks in the FBS with at least 115 pass attempts and zero interceptions (Wallace has attempted 118 passes this year). Idaho's Chad Chalich is the only other player holding that distinction right now.
  • Auburn, which hosts Ole Miss, hasn't loss to the Rebels at home since 2003. The Rebels' quarterback that year? Eli Manning.
  • Alabama holds a 28-3 nonconference record under Nick Saban and is 21-0 in nonconference games since the start of the 2009 season. The Crimson Tide are also 13-1 all-time against current Sun Belt teams. The Tide host Sun Belt member Georgia State on Saturday.
  • Since taking over for injured quarterback Jeff Driskel, Florida quarterback Tyler Murphy has a 96.1 QBR, which would be second in the FBS if he had enough snaps to qualify for the national rankings. But in nine fewer drives than Driskel, Murphy has guided the Gators to more touchdowns (seven to Driskel's five), fewer turnovers (three to Driskel's seven) and fewer three-and-out series (four to Driskel's eight). A healthy Matt Jones at running back certainly doesn't hurt Murphy in that regard, either.
  • Tennessee has lost 18 straight games to teams ranked in the Associated Press poll. The last win by the Volunteers over an AP top 10 team was in 2006 against Georgia in Athens. The Vols will get a crack at Georgia, currently ranked No. 6, at Neyland Stadium.
  • Mississippi State has lost 11 consecutive games against ranked opponents. The Bulldogs’ last win over such a team was in 2010 over then-No. 22 Florida. As for top 10 teams, which their opponent on Saturday (LSU) is, the Bulldogs haven't beaten one of those since Sept. 30, 2000 (then-No. 3 Florida).
  • A Kentucky loss to South Carolina would drop the Wildcats to a 1-4 start in back-to-back seasons. The last time that happened was 2004-05.
  • Missouri is the only school in the country currently with four players who have rushed for 215 yards or more this season. The quartet consists of: running backs Russell Hansbrough (335 yards), Henry Josey (238), Marcus Murphy (224) and quarterback James Franklin (215).
  • Vanderbilt senior kicker Carey Spear hit a 50-yard field goal against UAB last week to become the Commodores' first kicker to hit four field goals of 50 yards or better in his career. His career best was 54 yards against South Carolina on Sept. 14 and that's also the second-longest field goal by an SEC player this season (Georgia's Marshall Morgan hit a 55-yarder against LSU last week).
The SEC coaches have spoken, and the reigning Heisman Trophy winner is only good enough to garner second-team status on the 2013 preseason All-SEC team.

Georgia’s Aaron Murray was voted first team by the coaches and Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel second team. Alabama’s AJ McCarron was the third-team quarterback.

It’s a good thing the SEC stopped releasing the coaches’ preseason team in conjunction with the SEC media days.

Could you imagine the circus that would have ensued -- all the coaches being polled on who didn’t vote for Manziel?

It would have been the Tim Tebow-Steve Spurrier soap opera all over again in 2009 when the Head Ball Coach was the only one of the SEC coaches who didn’t vote Tebow first team, and it became THE story at the SEC media days that year.

Spurrier acknowledged that he wasn’t the one who filled out his ballot (a common practice among coaches) and then signed off on it without paying it much attention.

In this case, it’s obvious that several coaches didn’t vote for Johnny Football, who set an SEC record last season with 5,116 yards of total offense on his way to becoming the first freshman in history to win the Heisman Trophy.

Manziel already has enough controversy swirling around him with the ongoing NCAA investigation into whether or not he took money for signing autographs. Those close to him insist that he was already salivating at the thought of carving apart a few defenses and taking out his frustration over all the scrutiny he’s received during the offseason.

Granted, Manziel brought much of that scrutiny on himself. But, now, he has even more motivation.

The coaches in this league either think Murray is better or they think Manziel might stumble under the glare of that scrutiny.

Of course, Texas A&M isn’t really saying anything about Manziel’s status this season other than its chancellor questioning some of the media’s reporting in the matter.

If Manziel plays -- and most close to the situation seem to think that he will – you can bet that it will make for great theater.

But, then, when is Johnny Football not great theater?

Regardless of who anybody thinks should genuinely be the SEC’s first-team quarterback, the truth is that the league has three of the best in the country.

Murray has a chance to become only the third player in FBS history to pass for 3,000 yards in four straight seasons and is 20 touchdown passes away from surpassing former Florida Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel as the SEC’s career leader in touchdown passes (114).

All McCarron has done is lead Alabama to back-to-back national championships. He threw 30 touchdown passes and only three interceptions last season and has played brilliantly in each of the last two BCS National Championship Games. He would become the first FBS quarterback in history to win three national championships if the Tide take home another crystal trophy this season.

Anyway, let the great debate begin.

Alabama placed a league-high five players on the first team. The Crimson Tide had a total of 16 players on all three teams. Georgia and LSU each had eight players receive recognition, while Florida and Tennessee each had seven.

Interestingly enough, South Carolina only had five players selected and Texas A&M four, and both of those teams will start the season ranked in the top 10 nationally. Kentucky is the only school in the league that had fewer than four players named to the All-SEC team.

Coaches were not permitted to vote for their own player.

The Heisman should be Manziel's to lose

November, 27, 2012
11/27/12
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Johnny ManzielBrett Davis/US PresswireWhen it comes to Heisman candidacy, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel has compiled a strong platform.
There’s one last weekend for Heisman voters to scout any remaining candidates for college football’s most prestigious award.

But after 13 weeks of action, the winner is clear, and voters don’t need any more time to think about it.

It was Johnny Manziel a week ago. It’s Johnny Manziel today. And it should be Johnny Manziel when the Heisman Trophy is presented on Dec. 8.

In 12 straight weeks (Texas A&M didn’t have a bye week) the slippery Manziel racked up 3,419 passing yards with 24 touchdowns to eight interceptions and rushed for 1,181 yards and 19 more scores. He’s second in the SEC in passing yards and first in rushing. He also guided Texas A&M to a 10-win season in its first year in the SEC and was undefeated on the road.

His 4,600 yards of total offense (and counting) topped Cam Newton’s mark of 4,327 yards, which used to be an SEC record. He already has more passing and rushing yards than Tim Tebow did during his Heisman season in 2007 and has thrown for 565 more yards than Newton did during his 2010 Heisman season. He won’t touch Robert Griffin III’s 4,293 passing yards from his 2011 Heisman year, but he crushed him in the rushing department by 482 yards.

Manziel has had three games in which he had at least 300 passing yards and 100 rushing yards, the most for any player in a single season since 2000. The rest of the nation has had eight such games the entire season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Manziel has also gained 784 rushing yards on scrambles. That's 43 more yards scrambling than Collin Klein, Braxton Miller and Marcus Mariota combined. He has also scrambled for 35 first downs this season, including 20 first downs on third down, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Not voting Manziel No. 1 at this point is almost comical when you look at the way the fabulous freshman phenom has done all of this in his first year on the field with a brand-new offense and coaching staff in the SEC.

“His numbers speak for themselves against anybody who has played not only this year but who has [ever] played the game,” said Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, who has been very actively captaining the Johnny Football Heisman ship. “As we’ve gone through this process, he’s been a catalyst for this football team in the first season in the SEC.”

While his 43 total touchdowns are lower than his three predecessors, Manziel has way more total touchdowns than the other two dual-threat quarterbacks still alive in this race.

Klein, who has had a superb season, has 34 total touchdowns and Miller has 28 total.

People will knock his two losses (something neither Klein nor Miller have) to Florida and LSU at home. Both are currently ranked within the top seven of the BCS standings and both own top-10 defenses. In those games, Manziel threw for 449 combined yards with zero touchdowns and three interceptions. He also rushed for 87 yards and one touchdown, averaging 2.6 yards per carry.

Not Heisman-worthy at all, but you have to dig deeper than just his two poor performances against top-notch defenses. Look at the growth from Manziel after his losses. Since the LSU game, he has averaged 382.2 yards of offense with 19 touchdowns.

One of those opponents was Alabama ... on the road. Talk about growth.

He had his true coming-out party in front of the entire nation when he torched Alabama’s top-ranked defense for 345 yards of offense and two touchdowns. He never wavered and sliced up the Tide with his arm and legs. Some of the Playstation moves he pulled didn’t seem possible.

He then showed out in his final outing with a bevy of twists and turns that amounted to 439 yards and five touchdowns against Missouri with a brace on his knee. Willis Reed and Paul Pierce had nothing on Johnny Football.

Manziel has made Texas A&M one of the nation’s hottest team. The Aggies aren’t close to where they are without Manziel. People talk about how much Manti Te’o, Manziel’s only real remaining Heisman competition, has meant to Notre Dame. He’s been fantastic, but take Manziel off A&M’s squad, and the Aggies aren’t nearly the same.

Being a freshman should only help his defense because it makes what he’s done that much more impressive. His two losses shouldn’t hold much weight because Tebow and Griffin both had three losses before winning.

What matters is his body of work, and no one else equals him. No one else equals his excitement or importance.

The Heisman Trophy should be as good as his.

"It's something you dream about as a kid, when you’re sitting there playing all these NCAA [video] games when you're a kid and you create a player and you win the Heisman as a freshman because you just put up crazy numbers," Manziel said. "It's something that you can only sit back and dream about. It's the biggest, most prestigious award in college football, so it would definitely be a dream come true."

Manziel is living the video game life, and there’s no reason his dream shouldn’t become a reality.

Putting Manziel's numbers in perspective

November, 13, 2012
11/13/12
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Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel had his Heisman Trophy moment last Saturday with his performance against Alabama in the Aggies’ 29-24 win.

Kansas State’s Collin Klein remains the Heisman Trophy front-runner, but don’t rule out “Johnny Football.” He made the kind of late-season splash on a huge stage that’s so important in the Heisman voting.

Robert Griffin III probably won the Heisman a year ago with his performance against Oklahoma on the next-to-last weekend of the regular season.

If you look at Manziel’s statistics to this point, he’s right there on par with the last two Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks to come out of the SEC -- Auburn’s Cam Newton in 2010 and Florida’s Tim Tebow in 2007.

Manziel also compares very favorably to Klein and has faced three teams ranked in the top five nationally in total defense -- No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 LSU and No. 5 Florida.

Here’s a breakdown of Manziel’s numbers through 10 games compared to what Newton and Tebow had done through 10 games during their Heisman Trophy seasons:

MANZIEL
  • Total offense: 3,794 yards
  • Touchdowns accounted for: 33
  • Rushing: 1,014 yards, 15 touchdowns, 6.5 yards per carry
  • Passing: 227-of-336 (67.6 percent), 2,780 yards, 18 touchdowns, six interceptions
NEWTON
  • Total offense: 3,171 yards
  • Touchdowns accounted for: 36
  • Rushing: 1,281 yards, 16 touchdowns, 7.3 yards per carry
  • Passing: 123-of-183 (67.2 percent), 1,890 yards, 19 touchdowns, five interceptions
TEBOW
  • Total offense: 3,250 yards
  • Touchdowns accounted for: 42
  • Rushing: 718 yards, 19 touchdowns, 4.2 yards per carry
  • Passing: 173-of- 255 (67.8 percent), 2,532 yards, 23 touchdowns, five interceptions
Johnny ManzielMike Zarrilli/Getty ImagesWith a win against No. 1 Alabama, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel moved closer to Heisman candidacy.
In a year in which the Heisman race has really lacked pizzazz, one player is bucking the lackluster trend.

Small in stature but big in plays, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel proved yet again over the weekend he deserves a seat at the Heisman table in New York next month.

The redshirt freshman has been too exciting, too productive and too darn good not to get some real Heisman love. If the season ended today, it would be an absolute crime if Johnny Football wasn’t a Heisman finalist.

If what he’d done heading into the Alabama game didn’t win you over, Saturday inside Bryant-Denny Stadium had to.

He was thrown right at one of the nation’s best defenses from the start, accounting for 16 of Texas A&M’s 27 plays in the first quarter and collecting 150 of the Aggies’ 172 first-quarter yards (passing/throwing). All three drives ended with Aggies touchdowns.

He made defenders look sillier and sillier with each scramble, such as his nifty 29-yard scamper on the first drive to put the ball at the Alabama 14-yard line, and his clumsy-turned-slippery 32-yard pass on the second drive that set up the Aggies’ second touchdown.

He pulled off another jaw-dropping 32-yard run on the third drive just for fun.

He even fumbled a ball in midair, only to catch it, roll out and find a wide-open Ryan Swope for a 10-yard touchdown in the first.

After struggling in the second and third quarters, he led the Aggies on two fourth-quarter scoring drives. On A&M’s final scoring drive he threaded a pass to Swope for 42 yards down the right sideline before tossing a perfectly thrown flag pass to Malcome Kennedy for the go-ahead 24-yard touchdown.

Manziel finished with 345 total yards and two scores. It was reminiscent of another dual-threat quarterback who walked out of Bryant-Denny Stadium with a shocking win. His name was Cam Newton, and he left with two more touchdowns, but 90 fewer yards.

Given the Herculean task of besting Alabama’s defense, Manziel came through and never wavered. Defensive stops didn’t stun him. He stunned the Tide.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Manziel completed all six of his passes outside the pocket and scrambled for 94 yards when forced out of the pocket. Before Saturday, Alabama’s opponents were completing 35.7 percent of their passes outside the pocket and had scrambled for 12 total yards in nine games.

He also completed 4-of-5 passes thrown 20 or more yards downfield. In previous games, Alabama allowed nine completions on 41 pass attempts thrown 20 yards or longer downfield and hadn’t allowed a quarterback to complete four such passes since the start of the 2009 season, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

He ran the nation’s No. 1 team out of its own stadium and momentarily knocked the SEC off it path toward a seventh straight national championship appearance.

That right there should get voters outside of the South giddy about Johnny Football, but there’s so much more to him than just Saturday’s stellar outing.

Manziel doesn’t look like he can do much, but even with his generously listed 6-foot-1 height and his awkward and graceless scurrying, Manziel constantly finds ways to make plays. You can’t bring too much pressure because he’ll just sidestep his way outside and sprint for a big play. Don’t bring enough, and he’ll burn you over the top.

He’s third in the SEC in passing (2,780), first in rushing (1,014) and has combined for 33 total touchdowns. He’s averaging 379.4 yards of total offense per game and is the second freshman in Football Bowl Subdivision history to rush for 1,000 yards and pass for 2,000 yards in a single season.

People harp on his two home losses to Florida and LSU, but plenty of Heisman winners have lacked perfection. Tim Tebow and Robert Griffin III both lost three games before hoisting the bronze trophy. And if Manziel & Co. keep winning, he might play in a BCS bowl game -- something Tebow and Griffin didn’t do during their Heisman years.

When compared to Tebow, Griffin and Newton, Manziel is right in line. He won’t pass for Griffin’s 4,293 yards and 37 touchdowns, but he’ll surpass Newton’s passing yardage and needs 507 yards to beat Tebow’s. He also has rushed for more yards than Tebow and Griffin and needs 460 yards to surpass Newton’s SEC quarterback record of 1,473 he set in 2010.

So when it’s time to cast those Heisman ballots and pick those worthy candidates to suit up in the Big Apple, Manziel can’t be left out. He has done too much already, and still has time to do even more.

Q&A: Catching up with Von Miller

July, 27, 2012
7/27/12
10:09
AM ET
There was a familiar face in Aggieland last week during the Texas state 7-on-7 championships.

Denver Broncos linebacker and former Texas A&M All-American Von Miller stopped by the A&M campus during the state tournament. Miller, who was the no. 2 pick in the 2011 NFL draft and was voted the Associated Press Defensive Rookie of the Year after a 64-tackle, 11.5-sack season, is an Adidas client. Adidas sponsored the 7-on-7 championships and had a large presence, including outfitting all 128 teams with uniforms. It is also the company behind Texas A&M's new uniforms that were unveiled on July 12.

Miller, a DeSoto, Texas/DeSoto High School product, took the time to visit with GigEmNation during his stay at the tournament.

Q: What are your thoughts on the Aggies new uniforms?
A: I actually got a chance to see the uniforms a little earlier than the guys here. I was pretty stoked about it. These days, uniforms are such a big recruiting tool in getting kids. I think they’re pretty cool. I think the kids in high school, the guys that are potentially going to come to A&M, I think they’ll feel the same way too.

Q: How do you feel about the direction things are going so far under new head coach Kevin Sumlin?
A: Coach Sumlin, he’s a great guy. I’ve met him, talked with him a couple of times. I think it was a great thing to bring coach Sumlin in here. Coach (Mike) Sherman was my guy. He got me here, he made me into the football player that I am today, but coach Sumlin he’s a great guy too. He’s able to go into those homes and get those recruits that we need to take this program to the next level. A lot of kids can relate to him, he’s a young coach, a smart coach and I think with coach Sumlin on staff, hopefully we can get the football program dominant in the SEC.

Q: What do you feel like the Aggies' membership in the Southeastern Conference will do for the program?
A: We don’t have to share recruits with that other school across the state. We’re the only SEC school in the state of Texas and I think that’ll be a huge recruiting tool for guys in the Dallas area and Houston area. I think us being in the SEC, it’ll really bring some big time players to A&M.

Q: With all the new things - coaches, athletic director, uniforms, etc., is it an exciting time to be associated with the school?
A: It’s been an exciting time at A&M. We’re different from any other school out there. Guys here at A&M are doing a great job of building a school and building a program. We're just trying to win championships here and I think the direction we're taking this team and taking this program, we're headed that direction.

Q: What is it like being back on campus?
A: It always feels great to be back here in Aggieland and to see some of the new stuff that's going on. I see some of the things that we're doing and to where we're taking this university. It's a great time to be in Aggieland and I'm happy to be here.

Q: How has your offseason been?
A: My offseason has been great. The first part of offseason, I did a lot of working out, just trying to get my body in shape. These last couple, four-to-five weeks have just been relaxing, trying to get my body and my bones ready for this long season that's right around the corner. From August all the way to January, it's pretty strenuous on the body.

Q: What are your thoughts on how last season went in your first year?
A: I think last season was great. We won a lot of games, we went on a big long streak right in the middle of the season. Tim Tebow did a lot of great things for us. We were able to get a Hall-of-Fame player in Peyton Manning (in the offseason). He feels like a coach sometimes. We have a Hall-of-Fame player on defense too in Champ Bailey. So we feel like every other team in the National Football League; we want to win a Super Bowl too. We just have to take it one day at a time and hopefully we can give Bronco fans and Bronco Nation something to cheer about.

Q: Is there a different feeling now with Manning on the team?
A: It's just my second year so everything is new for me. I'm a rookie still until four games in. I'm just taking it one day at a time. Peyton Manning is the ultimate pro. The way he comes in every day and carries himself, the way he works, is really something to watch. He's a perfect example for us young guys on the team.

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